Saturday, 15 December 2012

Elissa Bogos | The Last Jew In Afghanistan


Here's a short video documentary by Elissa Bogos on Zeblon Simontov, the last Jew in Afghanistan while he observes the fifth night of Hanukkah alone in his deserted and dilapidated synagogue.

Simontov was born in 1959 in Turkmenistan, and lives in Kabul working as a carpet dealer. He's believed to be the last Jew in Afghanistan...and consequently is the last caretaker of the only synagogue in Afghanistan.

His wife and daughters emigrated to Israel, and when asked why he didn't, he's said to have replied "Go to Israel? What business do I have there? Why should I leave?"

This reminds me that a few years ago, I thought of photographing the last remaining Jews in Egypt. Starting off by photographing one of the ancient (and now restored) synagogues in Old Cairo, I was faced with obstacles by the policemen guarding it, who were uneasy at my presence taking pictures there, I quickly gave up. The synagogue was open to tourists, but there were some restrictions in photographing...at least, that's what they told me.

For a relatively recent article dealing with the remnants of the Jewish community in Egypt that was once one of the vibrant in the world, take a read of Josh Weil's The Last Jews of Cairo.

Elissa Bogos is a freelance photojournalist and videojournalist currently based in Kabul, Afghanistan.  Her photographs and video have been published in The New York Times, BBC, The Guardian, EurasiaNet, The Huffington Post, The Montreal Gazette, Reuters, New York Daily News and in other media. In Afghanistan, she freelances for a variety of NGOs and private companies and has worked with the Associated Press, Tolo TV and Channel One TV.